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Spring sting: battling yellow jackets, wasps

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As the season accelerates, there are increasing reports of “wasps” including yellow jackets and hornets around homes and buildings.  Yellow jackets and their close relative hornets are the most aggressive and are the ones that cause the most problems.  They can be distinguished from bees by their thin waists (bees are thick- waisted). Yellow jackets are carnivorous, primarily feeding on other insects like flies, bees and spiders. They will also feed on picnic fare – meats, fruit, soft drinks and the nectar of flowers. Honey bees harvest nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) from flowers and are not attracted to meats.

When considering the control of wasps, bear in mind that they are also beneficial, killing many pest insects to feed to their young. If the nest is situated in a location that is not likely to be bumped or disturbed, you might consider letting the wasps remain in the area to serve as beneficials. The colony will remain active for only one summer, after which the queens will fly away to start colonies of their own. The ones that remain behind die at the end of summer and the nest is not used again.

If removal is necessary, the best option is to get professional help from a pest control company because any disturbance around a nest can trigger a mass attack. If you choose to do it yourself, complete body coverage and protection is essential because yellow jackets can find even small openings in clothing.

Treat nests in early morning or in evening when wasps are less active, using a commercial wasp and hornet insecticide that can be applied from a distance. Foggers containing pyrethrins can also be used. A number of insecticides will act as a repellant, driving the yellow jackets into the nest long enough to tear the nest down, place it inside a heavy plastic bag and apply lethal doses of the insecticide into the sealed bag.

For nests in the ground or even above ground, gasoline is not a good control option because of fire hazard, contamination of soil and possibly ground water. You may want to put down a powdered insecticide that is carried into the nest as the wasps enter the opening.

To manage wasps at picnics and around food concessions, hang a piece of meat or fish over a gallon container of soapy water. When these insects leave the hanging bait, they often drop down a short distance before beginning to fly, dropping into the water.

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